The AP Computer Science A exam is one of the most popular self-study tests among APs. Despite the large number of students who register for the class, this exam is well-suited to self-study due to its substantial emphasis on coding and highly specific theory. Students who enjoy creating code and who perform well on their own are frequently excellent self-studiers on this exam. If you’re thinking about taking the AP Computer Science A exam, whether you’ve taken the class or plan to self-study, keep reading for a breakdown of the exam and CollegeVine’s tips on how to prepare.
Concerning the Exam
AP Computer Science is an advanced placement course in computer science. Problem solving, hardware, algorithms, and how people use computers to solve real-world problems are all covered in this course. Students should be familiar with basic algebra before taking the class or beginning self-study in order to understand the subject. “Problem solving, design strategies and methodologies, data organization (data structures), ways to processing data (algorithms), analysis of prospective solutions, and the ethical and societal aspects of computing” will be familiar to successful students. Because computer science is a fast developing discipline, students should use the most up-to-date information when studying for the exam.
AP Computer Science is an advanced placement course in computer science. A test is one of the longest exams, lasting three hours and divided into two portions. The first segment takes an hour and 30 minutes to complete and has 40 multiple-choice questions, accounting for half of your overall score. The second component, which takes an hour and 30 minutes to complete and has four free-response questions, accounts for the remaining 50% of your score.
64.3 percent of students who took the AP Computer Science A exam in 2016 scored a 3 or above. Only 20.7 percent of students achieved a 5 on the exam, while 23.1 percent received a 1. The majority of pupils performed better on multiple-choice questions than on free-response ones.
Keep in mind that AP credit and advanced standing differ greatly from school to school. Here are the rules that govern which APs are eligible for course credit or advanced placement at which colleges and institutions.
Step 1: Evaluate Your Capabilities
You’ll need a firm grasp of your beginning point before you can build an effective study strategy. Check out this CollegeVine post to discover more about the value of formative evaluations and how you can utilize them to get your studying off to a good start. What is a formative assessment, and why should I use it in my studies?
Take a practice test to see how well you know the information thus far. Although the College Board’s AP Computer Science A website contains a number of sample exam questions, it does not contain an entire sample test. On the College Board AP Computer Science A instructor website, however, there is one complete practice test with scoring guide. Many commercial study guides also include practice exams, and some even include a diagnostic examination to serve as your initial assessment.
Step 2: Research the Theories
The AP Computer Science A test will need you to comprehend the fundamentals of computer science as well as their application in a variety of computing and STEM-related jobs. The following concept areas will be covered:
Designing an object-oriented software
Implementation of the program
Analyze the program
Data structures that are common
Algorithms and standard operations
One thing to keep in mind is that any code used and written on the test must adhere to the Java AP subset. Appendix A of the course description contains more information.
Labs play an important role in the course’s content. “Theory, formal logic, abstract data structures, and a conceptual knowledge of algorithms” are common lab prerequisites. You’ll need to get a lot of practice applying theory to real-world problems. You should use core course content to verify theories and explore alternative approaches as you construct data structures and develop algorithms. On the College Board’s AP Computer Science A instructor website, there are various sample labs.
You’ll most likely need some study aids to get through this material. The textbook Be Prepared for the AP Computer Science Exam in Java is often regarded as the most comprehensive, as it was written expressly for the AP subject. Some say it’s too long, but it was written by an actual AP exam reader who also works as a consultant for the College Board, so you can be sure it contains everything you need to know for the exam. Barron’s AP Computer Science A, 7th Edition study guide may be useful if you want knowledge given in a more succinct manner. Exam and practice suggestions are also available from the College Board.
Furthermore, there are several study tools available online, including many from AP teachers who have provided detailed summaries and study guides. As you go through them, make sure you’re selecting the most up-to-date information possible, as this exam changes frequently.
Using one of the freshly launched AP exam apps is another unique and enjoyable method to study. These cost between $0.99 and $4.99, but they’re a fun and simple method to test yourself. Before you choose one, make sure you read reviews because the quality of them vary greatly.
Step 3: Get some practice with multiple choice questions.
Once you’ve figured out your idea, put it to the test by answering multiple-choice questions. These can be found in most study manuals or by conducting an online search. You might also try taking a practice exam’s multiple-choice component. The official course description contains a number of sample questions with answers and explanations. Others can be found in your reference books. Keep track of which concepts are still causing you problems, and go over the content again.
Step 4: Experiment with open-ended questions.
The AP Computer Science A Exam’s free-response section is unique among AP tests. It effectively requires you to produce code that fits certain criteria, solves difficulties, or completes a specific assignment using your understanding of course subject and the AP Java subset. To do so, you’ll need a solid understanding of coding, including how it’s written and how to apply it.
Also, keep in mind that the exam expects you to write a program that can be used in a variety of situations, not one that is particular to the numbers in the question. Don’t use precise numbers, strings, or array dimensions in your programs.
There will be numerous elements to each of the free-response prompts. Each section of the question should be underlined, and you should tick them off as you answer them. When students forget to answer one part of a multipart question, they frequently lose points. Also, make sure that each section of your answer is clearly defined. To denote each section of your solution, write 1(a), 1(b), 1(c), and so on.
Also, at the absolute least, try to answer each component of each question and write some code for it. There will be no points awarded for areas that you did not attempt to answer, and even partial points can help you improve your overall score greatly.
Finally, keep in mind that the elegance of your code is not a factor in your grade. You may be aware that something may be made easier or more efficient, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get there. It doesn’t matter how efficient or elegant your code is as long as it does the task at hand. There are no bonus points for creative responses, so keep it brief and to the point.
Step 5: Take a Practice Test Once More
Take a practice test to assess your progress, just as you did at the start of your studies. You should witness a constant evolution of your knowledge, and patterns identifying which areas have improved the most and which parts still require improvement are likely to emerge.
If you have time, go over each of the stages again to improve your score progressively.